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5 Ways to Protect Gig Economy Workers in a post-COVID era

The Gig Economy comprises diverse jobs or micro-entrepreneurial opportunities: From ride-hailing to delivery & professional services and providing homestays as a service, each a small business in their own right. Gig work constitutes essential public services and adds tremendous value to local economies, putting money in the hands of people on a daily basis. 
 
However this does not make them immune to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. So how do government and new-age businesses protect these workers? According to Ola Mobility Institute Report, here are 5 ways to protect their livelihoods:
 
  1. Strengthening occupational safety and health measures
 
To secure the safety and health of gig workers, platforms have launched dedicated hotlines and websites to disseminate information, and take preventive measures. Ridehail, Rideshare, Package Delivery, and Food Delivery Companies engaging millions of driver- or delivery-partners, and restaurant-partners have issued health guidelines specified by the WHO to secure safety and health of all. 
 
Additionally, these platforms, particularly those handling food and other deliveries, have mandated the use of hand sanitisers and masks by their driver and delivery-partners, and require them to wash their hands regularly and observe “coughing etiquette” as specified by WHO and health ministries around the world.
 
2. Adapting to the “new” work environment
 
Businesses handling essential products and services such as groceries, food, medicines, and mobility in general, have also modified their services to enhance safety. Contactless Delivery is a common feature of e-commerce and delivery companies today.
 
These platforms are also encouraging digital payments; in other words, cashless transactions. Card payments too are being discouraged in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus.
 
3. Providing health access for all & extending paid leave 
 
Businesses are facilitating access to healthcare. That is access to a doctor- on-call or online, health insurance, covering medical costs and other benefits for their gig workers. Other mobility platforms are offering paid sick leave that will continue through the COVID-19 outbreak, with no time stipulation.
 
4. Securing income and livelihoods of Giggers
 
Several platforms have introduced a slew of measures to secure the income and livelihoods of the gig workers and small businesses associated with them. 
 
In the UK, UberEats has waived off sign-up fees for restaurants joining the platform amidst the pandemic. In Malaysia, Grab will provide driver-partners with vouchers to help with daily household expenses. India’s Ola has also announced the creation of corpus of Rs. 20 crore, called ‘Drive the Driver Fund’, to support auto-rickshaw, cab, kaali-peeli and taxi drivers to mitigate the effects of the lockdown on their incomes. 
 
Some platforms have introduced a schemes that involves waiving off the lease and insurance payments for the company’s gig workers or have delayed their pay-back periods by months. 
 
5. Govts should introduce accommodative fiscal policies
 
Active fiscal policies include social protection measures ranging from targeted transfers to automatic stabilisers such as unemployment benefits, and public investment and tax relief for the self-employed, gig workers, and Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Accommodative monetary policies consist of interest rate reductions, reserve rate relaxation, and targeted liquidity provisions. 

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